Last Reviewed: October 2021
I am based in the UK and, at times, I sometimes use terms which might be confusing to outsiders. I’m sorry.
Also, I write this blog as a stroke survivor, so I might sometimes use terms with which people are not, generally, familiar.
I also write from the perspective of being a stroke survivor, but talk specifically about stroke here.
In a large part because of the stroke, I have had dealings with the UK’s state health service, the NHS (National Health Service). This covers the vast majority of health services offered in the UK, including hospitals and doctor’s surgeries
. Its great boast is that it is free at the point of contact, although this merely means that people pay through the tax system instead. Because the government of the day is so integral to setting its funding, the service is a punchbag and a frequent target when political needs arise.
There is a (growing) private health sector in the UK, some big things like opticians and dentistry, but the NHS is universally used for acute emergencies such as strokes. The quality of the care is variable, factor including geography and, unfortunately, poverty.
There are bound to be times when I talk about “the hospital”, without specifying which hospital. It is likely that I will be referring to my local hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Prescriptions in the UK are issued by a local doctor (called their GP, or General Practitioner), traditionally a signed paper slip. For people who require the same medication time and again, there is a “repeat prescriptions”, which does not involve seeing anybody face-to-face.
Armed with this slip, the patient then visits a pharmacy, and exchanges the slip for the meds. At that point, there is a fee, although many people are exempt. This is a flat fee, regardless of the actual medicine, so the patient is protected from some meds costing far more than others.
Only since the 2010s, this process is now electronic. Once a doctor has agreed to prescribe something, the next time the patient is involved is when collect the prescription. For repeat prescriptions, there are many web sites which can now “ping” your initial request through to the doctor. Often, pharmacies themselves provide this service, they will provide the meds and send (post) them to the patient. There is no cost to the patient for this service, because pharmacies earn a commission for every med fulfilled.
There are exceptions to this system, for example when meds require refrigeration.
The DWP is the Department for Work and Pensions, an agency of the UK government, responsibly mainly for the benefits system. Until the stroke, I had never used the benefits system, though I now receive ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment).
I am diabetic so sometimes talk about my eating habits. When I mention supper, I’m talking about my evening meal. This meal can have different names even within the UK, let alone abroad.
Lunch is lunch.
I do have quite an interest in politics, and the Conservative Party,UKIP (UK Independence Party), and the Liberal Democrats are all UK political parties. If I talk about a party with a more “international” name, such as the Labour Party or the Green Party, then unless I state otherwise, I’m referring to the UK flavour of the party.
Those supermarkets which I would rate as “premium” would probably be Waitrose or Marks and Spencer.
Other chains include Tesco (the market leader and our normal destination), Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda. We have a local Co-op, which is another (smaller) chain, and a couple of budget supermarkets, Lidl and Aldi. These two have their origins in mainland Europe, and now have a foothold in the UK. Traditionally, their prices and quality have both been excellent, but not their selection. This has improved over recent years, though the established supermarkets still offer better selections.
The Stroke Association, and Age UKare the UK’s national charities for stroke sufferers and the elderly, respectively.
Another stroke charity is called Different Strokes, and appears to focus on younger survivors. My main contact with them was through their Facebook group.
Disability Rights UK is a pressure group which lobbies UK authorities on behalf of disabled people. Many stroke survivors, are disabled, so this group is personally relevant. But they call more for changes in the law, rather than taking on individual cases.
I mention coffee shops occasionally. Of course, Starbucks is a global brand, but chains like Costas – a like-for-like competitor – also exist in the UK. I’m not sure that they exist outside of the UK. There are other chains which I tend not to use, such as Nero or Pret a Manger, and numerous independent shops.